Thursday, April 17, 2008

Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food

Alice Waters is one of the most influential chefs of the 20th/21st century. Her cooking emphasises straightforward preparation of the best, freshest, locally-grown ingredients. She has shepherded the culinary world away from dishes awash in heavy sauces and disguised ingredients and brought us to an almost old-fashioned appreciation of the ingredients themselves. Having grown up with a vegetable garden in the back yard and all the fresh seafood available in South Louisiana, I developed a real appreciation for the food Walters champions without knowing it wasn't what everyone was eating.

The Art of Simple Food (641.5 W) is a great guide to bringing that attitude to your own kitchen, especially as we look forward to the bounty of spring and summer produce.

While I normally would not use a cook book that didn't feature lots of pictures (I need all the help I can get), this book is so clearly written and philosophically centered that it is easy to follow even complicated recipes. Waters' focus is always on the food itself, keeping the preparation as transparent as possible. The book begins with about 200 pages of recipes presented as examples of technique and procedures. This section is followed by a large selection of additional recipes following the same principles.

Reading these recipes makes elegant food preparation seem simple. The fact is the simple preparation is what makes the food elegant.

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